It's going to be gone before and done with in a flash, so anyone and everyone interested in area high school football better be strapped up and ready to go. All Pinellas County teams will play their Kickoff Classic preseason games this Thursday or Friday. After that, the race to regionals is on for 11 straight weeks. The Suncoast News focuses on five North Pinellas programs each year. Here's a quick look into their respective districts. Class 7A District 9
Just like last year, this league is East Lake and everyone else. The Eagles came within a few missed plays from advancing to Orlando and playing in their first-ever state championship in 2013. A number of college-level talents graduated from that team, but enough remain to keep East Lake as the strong favorite to capture its fourth-straight district title. Last year's runner up, Pinellas Park, appears poised to be East Lake's top challenger. The run-heavy Patriots will not grab that second postseason berth without a strong challenge from Countryside, but new Cougars coach Eric Schmitz has plenty of work to do rebuilding a program that's missed the past two postseasons. Class 5A District 8 Tarpon Springs continued making strides with coach Ron Hawn at the helm, winning its first playoff game since 2009. The next step would be a district championship, but sharing the standings with the likes of Lakewood will make that a difficult task. The Spongers couldn't quite match up with the Spartans head-to-head last year, losing 46-21 at home. Overall depth continues to be a challenge for Tarpon Springs. Dunedin struggled through an ugly 1-9 season in 2013, but new coach Matt LePain has injected some much-needed enthusiasm into the program. Similar to Tarpon Springs, Dunedin's roster will be a quick read. But LePain has a two-way star in running back Jordan Williams and the ability to get the most out of players who run through walls for him. Class 8A District 7 Palm Harbor University will have its hands full again in District 8A-7. Bradenton Manatee is Bradenton Manatee. Meaning they might as well be inked in as league champs. That leaves PHU fighting with Sarasota Riverview and St. Petersburg for the coveted, second-and-final playoff slot. The Hurricanes finished a respectable 5-5 last year, but 0-3 in district play. Potentially helping PHU's slim hopes, though, is the fact that both Riverview and St. Pete lost some big-time contributors and numbers to graduation. Riverview graduated a whopping 28 seniors last year and St. Pete sent off 14, including its starting quarterback, running back and left tackle.